Thursday, September 16, 2010
There are two things wrong with this. 1) Why release this now? Why not hold off a little bit longer so that all audiences can experience the film the way the I did- with an uneasy sense of reality and doubt? 2) What are the critics going to say? We have all been duped and when you sit back to think about why would they even need to do something like this and your thoughts don't go that deep; because this is all a gimmick.
Read the full article in the NY Times HERE.
And for my last day of screening, I saw 4 films and I am packed up and ready to leave early tomorrow morning. It has been such a dream this week. I could not have asked for anything better. I hope to be back at Toronto next year.
NEDS (Peter Mullan) UK: NEDS stands for non-educated delinquents and these young boys that become hedonistic gang-members in their small town really are delinquents. The film builds nicely around a young, promising boy who is extremely smart and his brother is a well known and respected leader of one of the local gangs. Sometime in the span of a summer all the boys turn to fighting and even killing. The film begins with a lot of potential but loses its pacing and ultimately the point by the end of the film. This writer/director should have stuck to just one job and not both.
L'AMOUR FOU (Pierre Thoretton) France: This is a wonderful documentary on Yves St Laurent and his emipre of fashion that he built but ultimately the art collection and houses that he lived in. Mainly told from the prospective of his lover of 50 years, it showcases the auction where all of his major art was sold. The film was good but could have been great if more time was spent on discussing the art that he owned and more of the fashion trends that made him an icon.
!WOMEN ART REVOLUTION- A SECRET HISTORY (Lynn Hershman Leeson) US : Although slightly amateur, this documentary about feminist art was compelling and inspiring. There are so many interesting interviews, clips and photos of artwork from the late 60s through the 90s. We don't often think about the lack of female artists in galleries, media or schooling and this film is trying to give a voice back to the female artist.
I SAW THE DEVIL (Kim Jee-Woon) South Korea: This film is simply about revenge. Revenge in the craziest, bloodiest and most consuming way. It is bloody, gruesome and at times I was holding onto the seat next to me. The movie begins with a brutal murder of a young woman. Her husband then sets off to find and slowly torture the serial killer that did this. Done is ways that Quentin Tarantino would be proud, this film never gives the viewer a break and what is so fun about it, is that you don't want one.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
And now that I think about it, after this...only one more day to go (tear).
BLACK SWAN (Darren Aronofsky) US: Now, I am not ready to fully review this film tonight so I will only say that it is wonderful. Aronofsky is a truly talented filmmaker and with this film he has taken a simple idea, one that is found in many films and made it his own. Natalie Portman gives a breathtaking performance as Nina, who has been recently chosen to play the Swan Queen and the Black Swan in the ballet production of Swan Lake. From the moment that she has to embody both good and evil roles the film plays with your sense of perspective, understanding and expectations leaving you with a true experience.
*OKI'S MOVIE (Hong Sangsoo) South Korea
*22 OF MAY (Koen Mortier) Belgium
* AS IF I AM NOT THERE (Juanita Wilson) Ireland/Macedonia/Sweden
*I began screening all three of these films and after giving them about 20 minutes each I could no longer continue. Therefore I do not feel comfortable grading them, when I did not see them as a whole. I could go into more detail but I will spare you.
MAMMA GOGO (Fridrick Thor Fridriksson) Iceland: This movie had potential in the beginning but lost the lighthearted feeling that it tried to capture. GoGo is the mother of Christopher, who is a struggling local filmmaker who has lost all of his money. GoGo needs constant care as she begins to lose her memory and is becoming a danger to herself and the community. There are a few funny moments between the family as they figure out what to do with each other but that's it! The film does not develop much further, except that GoGo starts to be visited by her dead husband and she runs away to be with him, END.
MOTHER OF ROCK, LILLIAN ROXON (Paul Clarke) Australia: This was a fascinating documentary on Australian music writer and columnist Lillian Roxon. She championed the music that grew out of the dirty streets of New York including Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, David Bowie and Alice Cooper. Not only was she close with Andy Warhol and company but she had a knack for spotting new talent and recognizing the potential of rock and roll. Even if you have not heard of her (she is the author of Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopedia) if you are interested in any of the music to come out of NY in the 60s and early 70s you should catch this film.
NORWEGIAN WOOD (Tran Anh Hung) Japan: This film is based on the book with the same title. Now, I have not read the book but the movie is not worth catching. Although beautifully shot, the film fails to capture any of the main themes that must be in the novel. We are introduced to three best friends in their late teens, two of whom are dating, when one of them commits suicide. The two friends, Watanabe and Midori, deal with his death by leaving town and when they reconnect years later they fall "in love" with one another. Watanabe vows to love and protect Midori but she is haunted by her first love's death and can never love him back. It is really a sad story on love and love lost but NORWEGIAN WOOD relies on inaction instead of action and emotion is hard to capture without explanation.
I am sad that there is only one more day of screenings. I do not want to return but I am excited to continue screening, searching and writing about movies when I get home.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Today was a bit of a light day, only 4 films but all rather interesting.
BLESSED EVENTS (Isabelle Stever) Germany: This was an interesting, simple film that somehow came together but still left a lot of questions unanswered. A guy and a girl hook up one night and the girl becomes pregnant. They decide to become a couple and have the child together. They are never very intimate and you never find out anything too personal therefore there are many things left unsaid that any displays of emotion are strange.
CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (Werner Herzog) US: Yes, Herzog tackled 3D and yes, it looked great (at times) but as a film it was strange, slow, sometimes informative and patch-worked. Herzog is given permission to enter into a cave in France that houses the oldest known cave paintings, dating back over 30,000 years. The use of 3D is so amazing at these points that it is truly awesome. Other times your eyes cannot adjust and it is blurry and you are unable to concentrate on the image on screen. As for content of the film, Herzog trails off and brings in some pretty interesting subjects for interviews. It is definitely worth seeing but just be prepared for how weird it is.
JOHN CARPENTER'S THE WARD (John Carpenter) US: John Carpenter is back with a new thriller that takes place in a mental institution. Kristen (Amber Heard) is taken in as a new mental patient after she is seen burning down a house. All of the other girls on her floor start disappearing and when she tries to get out, she finds out that there are some scary things happening in her ward. This movie is ridiculous in a gory, fun way. Enjoy it for its campy qualities and do not judge it for the flaws in story because it actually comes together in a very interesting way.
AFTERSHOCK (Feng Xiaogang) China: Talk about a tear-jerker; there was not a dry eye in the house after this one. A family is torn apart after a devastating earthquake in Tehjung, China in 1976. Here the mother, who has just lost her husband has to decide which of her children to save (the son or daughter) who are both caught under a slab of concrete. She chooses her son and must live with the guilt of her dead child and husband her whole life. At the same time, the daughter never passes away and is adopted months later by another family. Years go by as the brother and sister grow up, have children and begin their own families and yet you wonder if the family will ever reunite and if they can ever really be a family again. The production of this film was incredible and epic. It was a little long and really capitalized on the emotional journey of its characters, making it a very heavy drama.
More to come tomorrow!
Monday, September 13, 2010
I got through 5 films today, making my total 21 films thus far. It is finally getting hard to remember what I had seen a few days ago so it is good that I am keeping track. I haven't even begun to assemble the "master" list of films and reviews from the other two people here from the festival screenings. I'll be sure to post that when I get home.
SILENT SOULS (Aleksei Fedorchenko) Russian: I went to see this film on a recommendation. I would have to agree that it was "good" but I should have asked for a little more information on why it was good. It looked good and flowed well, but it was a simple art-piece reminiscing about an old tribe in Russia. A man loses his wife and asks his friend to accompany him on a journey to give her a traditional burial, which includes burning and spreading the ashes into water. That's really all that happens with a few simple stories about the wife when she was alive. It was a nice film but for having a short running time it felt long, probably because there is something about a story that keeps the viewer entertained.
MONSTERS (Gareth Edwards) UK: This movie wants to be DISTRICT 9, but it falls short in so many ways and only comes close to its look-a-like that you ask yourself "why didn't I just watch DISTRICT 9?" Aliens have invaded the planet and the contamination zone is Northern Mexico. Our two characters must walk through the risky area to make it to the US and just so happens that the aliens are kept out by a giant wall. The illegal immigration agenda is so obvious but in case the audience did not catch on the male lead says something about how crazy it is to look at the US from the outside. The aliens are the best characters in the film and they and the entire production look amazing. I just have a problem with characters that state the obvious, over and over. For example, the female lead (who is engaged, but doesn't care for her husband) knows that they are traveling through an alien-infested area and when they run into these other creatures she actually asks questions like "what is that?" and "what are they doing here?"
THE PROMISE: THE MAKING OF DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN (Thom Zimmy) US: This documentary chronicles the making of the Boss' third record. You do not just have to like Springsteen to appreciate this film, in fact Bruce gives a lot of great insight into the obsessive, creative and dark places an artist must go to make a record. The film doesn't delve into anything too personal, just what was going on in the studio for the year that they were recording.
ROUTE IRISH (Ken Loach) UK: Ken Loach has proved again that he is a talented director. In his latest film he tackles the topical subject of the war in Iraq in this political thriller. Always one to glorify the middle-class, this is about two best friends who were contracted soldiers from the UK for Iraq. It begins with the funeral of one of the men, Frankie, who was killed in the line of duty but in a very suspicious way. His best friend Fergus then begins an investigation that leads to some interesting information and he takes it upon himself to find out who killed Frankie. Using the war as a backdrop, Loach seamlessly intertwines stock footage of wartime news clips with the film and creates a real feeling of chaos and despair. He also does not demonize the effects and terrible nature of war, with characters that are severely flawed and who realize that war is not humane so you cannot judge by normal standards. This was an intense, engaging and well made film.
BLAME (Michael Henry) Australia: Five prep school kids kidnap and plan to kill a piano teacher because they think that their friend committed suicide because of him. But then things go wrong. From the beginning of this film it is intense and very dramatic with suicide, murder and lies between friends. It it interesting how the students sway back and forth with their decision to kill the teacher or not. It is a dark first feature film from the director Henry and a film that is well acted and well executed but the end result is something sad and provides no catharsis being that teenagers have killed themselves and now teenagers want to kill.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
LOOK, STRANGER (Arielle Javitch): I don't really recall what I was expecting from this film, but it wasn't a lot and I was severely let down. Granted, I did view this early this morning, but thinking back on it, it is a minimalist film with two characters that never really describe what they are doing, where they are going and why. Whether or not I caught this film in the middle of the day I don't think that much would have changed in the story. We are introduced to a woman that is "trying to get home" (although we don't know where home is) and he helps her, until he gives up and leaves her in a place that is exactly how they started. Basically, just not good.
LAST NIGHT (Massy Tadjedin): The more that I think about this film, the more I realize how much that it stuck with me and I liked its premise, although sad. Joanna (Kira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington) are a married couple that have dated since college. We are introduced to them at a party where Joanna sees her husband flirting with his colleague, played by Eva Mendez. After arguing that evening over potential infidelities the couple make-up and when Michael leaves on a business trip the next day with Mendez, Johanna runs into an old fling on the street who is only in town for one night, played by Guillaume Canet. What happens next is an evening between two couples, both cheating in their own way. One couple is far more interesting to watch than the other, being that Canett is magnetic and so charming around Knightley that you wonder how she could not be with him. But what is great about this film is that it begs to ask the question of which is worse, to cheat on someone because of physical attraction and lust for something new or to emotionally cheat by being in love with someone else?
WHAT'S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA (Dustin Lance Black): Dustin Lance Black won the Academy Award for best screenplay for MILK and WHAT'S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA is his first feature film with writer and director credits. Virginia, played by Jennifer Connelly, is the town freak; she sleeps around, is coughing up blood and has an interesting son who is trying to figure out his feelings towards women and God. Things get tense in the town when Virginia reveals that she is having the baby of the town Sheriff (Ed Harris) who is running for senator and married. This film is tough, being that there is a lot going on. It is layered with interesting feelings towards religion, age, marriage and love. It often tries to be funny and some moments really are, but the rest falls flat and becomes strange. Black is trying to take cues from David Lynch, but failing to minimize all of the ideas that are going on. Connelly saves this film with her wonderful performance as Virgina.
AMIGO (John Sayles): Unfortunately, this was simply a dud. I walked out after an hour and that was me being kind, compared to the rest of the industry audience. AMIGO is about American take-over of the Philippines and what happens to a town of people that must bow down to this occupation. The film felt inauthentic in style and costuming. The dialogue was cliche and painful and after an hour of this 2 hour film I decided that if it was unsure of its characters and of its conflict this far into it, it was not worth my time.
That's all today! Until tomorrow! (I can't believe that I am half way done...sigh)
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I only got the 3 films today. That was not all my fault and timing just didn't work out for me. It was finally a day that I needed to relax and enjoy the city and get myself to an industry party. Not going to lie, it was fun, but probably because I needed a drink pretty badly and I ended up getting into a conversation that went from hypnotism to fake breasts to orgasms to relationships...gotta love Hollywood.
But of the films that I did see, I enjoyed them all and for different reasons.
LITTLE WHITE LIES (Guillaume Canet) France: This was such a pleasure to start my day with. This film follows around a group of friends who all take their annual summer vacation together after one of the members of their group gets in a serious car accident. Almost too slowly at times the film unravels secrets that affect the entire group. It boils slowly and methodically in a way that makes you laugh and cry by the end of the film, growing with these characters. It is beautiful and it doesn't hurt that the cast includes Marion Cotillard.
SUPER (James Gunn): Here comes the next interesting superhero movie. Take KICK-ASS and think more gritty. This film removes ALL of the fantastical elements of a superhero flick. It is sometimes grotesquely violent, but that it what is so charming about it. This is a "real" guy that is going into the streets and fighting crime, ultimately to get back his wife who was taken by a drug lord, so it gets pretty raw when his weapon is a wrench that he bashes skulls with. But at the same time, it fails to make these people easy to relate to, therefore it is hard to care. But it is funny, cute and worth a viewing.
GRIFF THE INVISIBLE (Leon Ford) Australia: This is a different perspective of the superhero, taken from inside the mind. What if you truly believed that you were a superhero and were fighting crime to help you community but it was all in your head? That is how Griff, a middle-aged, middle class guy who believes that he is special. That is until he meets Melody, who wants to help him save the world. This is a charming film that is done in such an interesting way that it must be seen. The way that events unfold and characters are developed is a very foreign technique and works wonderfully here.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Today my my first full day of screening. I got into the theaters for 5 films and watched one in the press/industry room. They were all very different kinds of films and not all of them were very good. I will only be giving a (brief) update and hope to be able to fill you in on what I really thought about them later (when I don't have to be up in 6 hours to start it all over again).
THE KING'S SPEECH (Tom Hopper): This was a brilliantly executed film starring Collin Firth as King George VI and how he got over his speech impediment. Firth gives an Oscar worthy performance (as always).
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (Woody Allen): He has done it again and this time it is so fun and light. This movie is all about fate/relationships/life- wait, that's what all of his films are about. But YWMATDS is wonderfully executed and delightfully funny, I compare it to drinking champagne in the morning and the nice buzz you get after a glass.
THE ILLUSIONIST (Sylvain Chomet): Based on a story by Jacques Tati and from the creator of THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE comes the next beautifully animated drama of a magician who takes in a young girl that still believes in magic. It is a sad story and beautiful to watch.
LEAP YEAR (Michael Rowe): This Mexican film was hard to watch, in fact I turned it off after about an hour of watching it. It had won the Camera d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival and yet I could not find a reason to finish it*. After I found out the significance of February 29th, I could not stand the ambiguous sexual encounters, beatings and rape. It just didn't do anything for me.
*This is a perfect case that as a festival viewer I do not have to finish the film and often industry professionals will walk out if they do not like it. It's pretty great.
IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY (Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden): I can see why some people will like this film, but it has so much potential to be better. Therefore instead of writing more about the film, it gives me the perfect platform to rant (only a little bit) on two things that I really didn't care for in the movie.
#1) When you are doing a movie about 16 year-old, coming-of-age, suicidal kids there should really be more dialogue and not so many long shots of blank facial expressions. These kind of quirky indie-comedies have not really captured "deep emotion" (example, JUNO) and should not rely on it.
#2) As a musician and lover of music, I really hate it when screenwriters have to put in favorite bands of the time, like "hey, wanna go to that Vampire Weekend show?". It puts a huge time stamp on the film and completely narrows the audience. If you don't know of the band, you might be too old and if you have heard of the band, they are probably not cool enough to have their name dropped. Just deal without it, let the soundtrack do what it is supposed to do, it does not need a formal introduction.
LIFE, ABOVE ALL (Oliver Schmitz): Probably a favorite of the night, this film was beautiful in so many ways. It tells the story of a young girl finding out that her mother has AIDS and what this could do to the community and her reputation in South Africa if she brings her home. It unfolds slowly and with such precision that this story of a small family resonates and paints a bigger picture of everyone's fear.
That's all for now! Back to more movies tomorrow!
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Today started early, checking in at the Industry Lounge for our credentials and familiarizing ourselves with the area. I even squeezed in three films. Three films that I really wanted to see. Not all of them great, but I am glad that I watched them.
As I am sitting down to write some reviews, I am really too tired to get everything out that I want to say. So I hope that you enjoy my abridged reviews, they will hopefully give you a taste of what I am able to get my eyes on at this fest.
THE TOWN (Ben Affleck) USA
This movie is most simply a good time; not the upbeat, happy-go-lucky sort but the action/drama kind of fun. Set in Charlestown, Boston THE TOWN is about the slums and those that grow up in a world of crime, where bank-robbing and car jacking are common practice. Doug (Affleck) and his three accomplices hold up a bank and take Claire (Rebecca Hall) as a hostage. When Doug gets romantically involved with Claire after the job and his crew start feeling heat from the FBI, things quickly get serious as they try to pull off one last heist.
Affleck has proved that he can direct an intriguing action film. His use of small streets for car chases and brutal violence give the film the grittiness that it needs. This is no DEPARTED although by its title, it should be more about Boston and not its leads. It is filled with cliches but it is a thrilling ride that works because of its great, seasoned actors. If there is one reason to see this film: Jeremy Renner's performance, he is perfect.
I'M STILL HERE (Casey Affleck) USA
Even with excessive drug use, prostitutes, male nudity, feces on the face and tears I'M STILL HERE resonates as a haunting portrayal of what the spotlight, or really any failed dream can become.
Yes, this is the documentary that follows Joaquin Phoenix on his journey from retired actor to rapper. Spanning over a year, Casey Affleck has made a triumphant directorial debut that dares to capture the "feelings" (if you can even call it that) of an apathetic generation, with Phoenix as the focal point.
The film is hard to describe, being that the viewer must just follow the journey. Phoenix rambles about why he wants to quit acting, saying that it was always false and never what he truly wanted to do, often cursing the media and what is the "perceived" version of Joaquin. Calling himself JP, he is mostly stoned, irate, contradictory and confused. But that is what is so funny. One conversation is Phoenix asking Affleck if winged creatures only use their wings to fly, he is thoroughly impressed when he finds out bees communicate with their wings. There are moments where I burst out laughing, unable to control how absurd and ridiculous he is and yet it was also so heartbreaking- you really want him to succeed.
But there are wonderfully poignant moments when Joaquin talks about the media, what it means to be a celebrity and why he is so important. He is the product of our own machine. Scary, but true. At the end of the film, when he dives underwater (finally washing his hair- you will want to personally buy a hairbrush and mail it to him by the end of this film) you are left thinking that if this crazy world can produce and crack the soul of human beings, then there is also hope for repair.
BAD FAITH (Kristian Petri) Sweden
Unfortunately, not all films that you see at a festival are going to be good. This film was so flawed in so many ways. It was "supposed" to be about a woman that is present in a series of serial killings and she takes it upon herself to solve the crimes. In reality, it played as a beautifully looking but drawn out, uneventful and uninteresting character piece that never developed its characters.
...and for tomorrow, I start screening at 9am. Goodnight!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I love flying, but I hate airports. There is something overwhelmingly exhausting about airports; everyone coming, going and uncomfortable. I realize that I am probably alone on this one, but I don't like waiting and airports are giant waiting rooms without walls. But once on the plane, I am a happy camper. The flight to Toronto was a smooth one, only a little over 4 hours. When the check-in associate told us that the flight would be light with passengers, I didn't expect it to have only 25 passengers, so I got a whole row to myself. As my boss says, I'm lanky, so I need that kind of room. Our room is cozy and we begin tomorrow at 7am. Time to get used to this three hour time difference and force myself to get some sleep. Until tomorrow.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Personal enthusiasm aside, the line-up this year has some of the most anticipated films in the festival circuit. Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Toronto has never failed to reveal the best in American and International cinema. I will go as far to say that this is the best festival in North America.
This is my first time with Industry Credentials. In non-festival speak, that means that I have a pass that will get me into the industry screenings of TIFF. To back up, TIFF is a market festival. This means that industry professionals, buyers, festival organizers and studio folks come to purchase the films that screen here that do not already have studio distribution. But these people do not screen the films with the general public; there is an entirely different screening schedule and set of theaters for us.
I have no idea what to expect, but I am as prepared as I can be. I have done my research on what is playing and what I really want to see. There are 300 films screening and my tentative schedule has me viewing between 35 and 40 films in 9 days, averaging about 5 films a day. There are so many good ones to choose from!
I know that I will not be able to see them all and for the sake of the Newport Beach Film Festival, I have to choose my films carefully, being that films with release dates already set are really no use to me. I am also heading into the screening room with our CEO and former Director of Submissions, so there are three of us with eyes on the screen; divide and conquer.
After splitting up the schedule, I am a giddy child with my wish-list. Even if I am unable to catch all the films that I want, I am just excited to be a part of the discussion, among film lovers like me. Here are just a handful of the titles, in no particular order, that I am excited about at this years TIFF (whether or not I get to see all of them):
BIUTIFUL (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (Woody Allen)
THE ILLUSIONIST (Sylvain Chomet)
THE CONSPIRATOR (Robert Redford)
WHAT”S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA (Dustin Lance Black)
THE DEBT (John Madden)
THE PROMISE: THE MAKING OF DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN (Thom Zimny)
ROUTE IRISH (Ken Loach)
ANOTHER YEAR (Mike Leigh)
CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (Werner Herzog)
JOHN CARPENTER’S THE WARD (John Carpenter)
BLACK SWAN (Darren Aronofsky)
THE KING’S SPEECH (Tom Hopper)
127 HOURS (Danny Boyle)
BEGINNERS (Mike Mills)
EVERYTHING MUST GO (Dan Rush)
…the list goes on.
If you dare to follow what I will be watching, I will be updating as often as I can. And now, time for the next wild ride.